Why Do So Many Americans Think Democrats Are Out of Touch?
The party appears to be struggling to convince the public it represents a better alternative to President Trump and the GOP.
By CLARE FORAN
Apr 29 2017
f Democrats want to regain the power they’ve lost at the state and federal level in recent years, they will have to convince more voters they can offer solutions to their problems.
That may be especially difficult, however, if voters think the party and its representatives in government don’t understand or care about them. And according to a recently released poll, many voters may, in fact, feel that way. The Washington Post-ABC News survey, released this week, found that a majority of the public thinks the Democratic Party is out of touch with the concerns of average Americans in the United States. More Americans think Democrats are out of touch than believe the same of the Republican Party or President Trump.
A single poll shouldn’t be given too much weight on its own, but the results arrive at a time when Democrats are trying to understand what went wrong last year, and what they need to do to win over voters. The results raise questions over why exactly the public thinks the party is so out of touch.
“This should be a huge wake-up call,” said Tim Ryan, the Ohio congressman who made an unsuccessful bid post-election for House minority leader. “Having two-thirds of the country think that your party is in la-la-land, that’s a bombshell. That should wake everybody up,” the Rust Belt Democrat who represents a state that Trump won and has argued the Democratic Party needs to improve its brand said, “and we should, as a party, be woken up already by the fact that people took a chance on Donald Trump.”
There is nuance to the results of the survey. A closer look at the numbers shows that while a majority of Americans believe the Democratic Party is out of touch, most Democrats do not, though that’s only by a slim majority. Democratic voters do, however, seem to have less confidence in their party—at least at the moment—than Republicans do in theirs. A higher percentage of Republican voters, at 60 percent, said that the GOP is in touch with the concerns of most people, compared with just 52 percent of Democrats who said the same of their party.
One explanation for this dynamic could be that liberal voters are looking to rationalize the results of the election, while Republicans may feel instinctively that their party is doing a better job of connecting with voters—because they won.
The perception might also be rooted in how much power Democrats have lost at the state and local level. The party’s grip on state legislatures eroded dramatically during the Obama administation. Voters may doubt that Democrats understand the challenges they face if the party lacks a substantial presence in their state.
“I do think that there’s a lack of trust that has amplified and grown between voters in certain parts of the country and the party, but I think that’s fixable,” said Adam Parkhomenko, a former Hillary Clinton aide. “We have to have a big tent, and the national party has to support state and local parties so that we can invest in candidates who can compete everywhere in the country.”
As Democrats try to determine how to better appeal to voters, some Democratic lawmakers think the party needs to start with a compelling economic agenda.